In a perfect world, Dominick Calhoun would today be celebrating his 13th birthday.
But his life ended when he was a 4-year-old, beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend. He died in the spring of 2010 in a frenzy of abuse that began when he wet himself during breakfast, and ended four days later after he was taken off life support.
So vicious was the abuse over those four days that the medical examiner stopped counting when he got to the 100th injury on Dominick’s body. And the police officer who responded to the scene testified that when he laid eyes on poor little Dominick he cried out, “What the fuck kind of animals are you people? Look at this boy. He’s crucified.”
It’s a case so violent, so vicious, that it defies any sense of basic decency.
Dominick lived in Livingston County up until two weeks before his death, when he moved with his older half-brother and mother into her boyfriend’s apartment in Genesee County’s Argentine Township, just over the county line.
What continues to horrify me about this case is that there were people in and out of the apartment throughout those vicious four days, people who could have — and who should have — stepped in or up to try to save that little boy. But it wasn’t until it was much, much too late that anyone bothered to do anything.
That monsters live among us is something I have come to understand. But that otherwise decent people, with the means and ability to help, instead stand silent when horrible things are happening is beyond me.
We must stop being quiet.
We need to do all we can to protect our kids, because child abuse is a community crisis that keeps growing.
Consider that in Livingston County, from 2010 to 2015, the number of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect rose by 56 percent; in 2015, the Livingston County Health Department reports that there were 463 child abuse or neglect cases reported, a number less that Michigan’s average, but higher than that of the nation’s.
Averaged out over a year, Livingston County’s numbers mean that there are NINE cases of child abuse or neglect reported in our community every single week.
Let’s let that sink in: An average of nine cases of child abuse or neglect are reported in Livingston County every single week.
This is why the work of LACASA is so vital.
I’ve been a board member of LACASA for a long time, and its work is something of which I couldn’t be more proud. The mission of LACASA is to “support and advocate for survivors of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault” by providing “prevention, education and awareness to strengthen families and make our community safer.”
LACASA’s Child Abuse Response Effort (CARE) team conducted 181 forensic interviews in 2016. That averages out to just over three such interviews each and every week of the year. During that same time, 264 abused children received counseling and clinical group services from LACASA; 63 at-risk families were served by LACASA’s in-home visiting program; 30 children were referred for trauma assessments; and 69 children were served through LACASA’s Court Appointed Special Advocate program.
It’s important, vital work that LACASA does with the victims, but the organization believes passionately in prevention, too, and works to educate the public in an attempt to identify and stop abuse before it happens.
In 2016, LACASA’s Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) program conducted 111 community education classes and awareness events in which 19,616 adults participated.
It’s all part of the comprehensive effort to ensure the safety of our kids.
At the state level, Dominick’s death spurred the creation of Dominick’s Law, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on June 26, 2012. The law strengthens the penalties for committing child abuse in the presence of another child, and strengthens penalties for first- and second-degree child abuse.
The first people sentenced under this law? Brandon Hayes and Corinne Baker.
Brandon Hayes, the man who beat Dominick to death, won’t ever leave prison after being found guilty of a host of charges, including first-degree murder, torture, and child abuse. He was sentenced to two life sentences.
Dominick’s mother, Corinne Baker, was sentenced to 13-30 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and 2-4 years after pleading guilty to second-degree child abuse.
You can follow the Dominick’s Law Facebook page by clicking here.
For more information on LACASA, click here.